No More Mr. Nice Guy. DJ Premier Tells MCs & NYC DJs To Step Their Games Up (Video)
DJ Premier is known for being one of Hip-Hop’s gap-bridgers. The Gang Starr producer/DJ has been a sonic leader in Hip-Hop for nearly 30 years. He has worked with artists who released records before him like Rakim and Just-Ice as well as 2010s breakouts such as Joey Bada$$ and King Magnetic. However, Preemo is also known to tell Hip-Hop when to step it up. With Gang Starr, much of the group’s hard-edged messaging was to keep the skills high and the circle tight. In the years since, in vocal moments like De La Soul’s “Much More,” Premier has had plenty to say.
Speaking with Pigeons & Planes, the Texas native and longtime New York City resident opened up, and pulled some cards. “I say this all the time: the Big L, and Pun, and Biggie were alive, I actually think the bar would be still so high that these artists that are saying all this nonsense, they wouldn’t be able to get in now.” Speaking to dismissive MCs, the Grammy Award-winner continues, “Jay [Z], Eminem…same thing. If you ever cross them, they’re gonna sneak up outta nowhere and destroy you.” Since a 1994 appearance alongside Big Daddy Kane, Preemo has worked with Jay. While he has performed with Eminem on BET Awards cyphers and Slaughterhouse cuts, the two artists have not yet released a formal one-on-one collaboration.
Moving from rappers, Premier next steps to radio DJs in his city. “I have a radio show on Sirius XM called Live From HeadQCourterz. I’m playing nothing but bangers that are reminiscent of the ’80s, when [Kool DJ] Red Alert, Marley Marl & Mr. Magic, Chuck Chillout, Awesome Two, Hank Love & DNA [were on radio]. It’s the same style of what they were doing. Just, in 2016, there’s so many records that come our way that are available right now on iTunes or whatever [that you may not otherwise be hearing]. New York radio, it’s only: ‘if you’re not relevant, you’re not getting played.’ [New York radio does not even] do mix-shows dedicated to your era or nothin’. But you call yourself ‘the home of Hip-Hop.’ You’re not the home of Hip-Hop if you don’t dedicate [time to] the pioneers somewhere in that mix.” However, Preemo feels differently about New York City’s reigning radio mix-master. “That’s what I like about [Funkmaster] Flex. Flex plays all the stuff that may be a lil’ out there or whatever. But there’s [also] times where … I’ll get calls from the homies and stuff going, ‘Yo, turn on HOT 97, Flex is goin’ in right now!'”
Premier diagnoses the problem for MCs and DJs as an urge to conform. “The problem is a lot of icons in New York want to be so relevant to the young kids that they’re doing the styles that [young kids do], but they’re not even doing a good version of it. I can do a Trap record, I can do one with my eyes closed. But if you’re gonna do one, do a bangin’ one. They’re doing horrible ones. It’s like, ‘Yo, you think that’s nice?’ And who’s approving the record?”
DJ Premier, who owns Year Round Records, continues to believe in the music marketplace. Having recently released two editions of PRhyme with Royce 5’9″, Preemo says that perception about sales can be misleading. “The audience that’s buying the most music is usually the youngsters. But people fail to realize, adults still buy music too. And I don’t really want to hear ‘kiddie Rap’ because that’s for the younger kids. But I still make sure that I know it. I want to know who every young artist ’cause they’re in my culture. I want to see what they’re doing.”
Later in the interview, Preemo speaks about his upcoming collaboration album with MC Eiht, titled Which Way Is West. “He approached me and said ‘Hey, man. I got all these songs. I don’t know what to do with them.’ I liked ’em. I said ‘Hey, man. Run ’em through my label.'” He also discusses his forthcoming solo album and documentary celebrating the legendary D&D Studios that were his musical home for more than 2 decades. “I’m also working on a solo album which is tied into the history, documentary of the D&D Studio. Jay Z, Nas, everybody that worked there has already done the interviews for the doc…The documentary will come along with the album. The album’s gonna be called Last Session @ 320, because 320 is the address.